When I was in my late 20’s, I read this quote, “Would someone, looking in on your life, have enough EVIDENCE to convict you of being a Christian?”
Hmm…I thought about that. My faith was all in my heart. Did I have tangibles for my faith?
I thought about the songs I listened to, the movies I watched, the books I read, the art in my home and the words out of my mouth. Nothing really said “CHRISTIAN.”
How does one begin to live a life of faith in a more purposeful way?
- I joined a Bible study.
- I read a TON of books.
- I listened to tapes.
- I prayed more.
It was a time of solid growth, a deepening of sorts.
As I learned and grew in my knowledge of Scripture and the Catechism, I started feeling REALLY GOOD. Instead of NOT KNOWING, I KNEW!
People had questions and I finally had the ability to answer them!
And then this shift happened; with all of my knowledge of right and wrong, it was incredibly easy to see another person’s sin. I mean, the Bible is clear about sin.
I had read enough Scripture to know that it was my obvious duty to correct my brother or sister in sin. Besides, if I wasn’t going to help them, who would?
And let me tell ya, there were a helluva lot of wrongs going down.
Yep, I thought that I had arrived, like my eyes had been opened. And I knew what GOD had called me to do. I was John the Baptist reincarnated.
Later, I learned the term “Self-Righteous.” A self-righteous person thinks they are Right and everyone else is Wrong. It has to do with legalism and moral superiority.
If I ever tried to write on your paper with my pen, I apologize. I was a little…zesty back then. Here’s the deal; I felt like I was Doing the Right Thing. I have a stack of journals from that time period. Reading them, it is obvious that I could not smell my own bad breath. My heart was true; I would mourn for another person’s choices. I felt like I HAD to save them from themselves.
Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner.
I am now older and a little bit wiser. I no longer correct another person’s sin. I have too many of my own sins to worry about, much less anyone else’s. But the question remains:
Should you correct a sinner?
When I was in my “enthusiastic” stage, I had this drama within me. Literally. It overwhelmed me. I would get SO CAUGHT UP IN WHAT OTHERS WERE DOING WRONG.
You know what helps me? Jesus. Not the Jesus that I have created in my head, the one that does not like the people that I don’t like, but the Jesus I find in the Gospels. The Jesus that does the unthinkable. The Jesus that touches lepers and hangs out with the lowest of the low. The Jesus of Love.
Did Jesus ever correct? Yes. But truthfully, it was the people like me that He corrected; the people so caught up in the letter of the law that they forgot who they were.
How did He treat sinners? Well, He saw them. He called them down from trees. He dined with them. He healed them. He protected them.
When we correct others, they shut down. Or they get angry. Or they defend their position. Rarely do they say, “Wow, you are right. I was definitely on the wrong track. Thank you so much for telling me what a terrible person I am.”
Plus, there is this odd psychology going on. Hang on, we’re gonna go into the deep for a moment:
In the Korean war, some soldiers were captured. Some of those captives were broken down in a precise way, using all sorts of techniques. (Lack of food, sleep, comforts, people.)
Then they would be paired with a friendly Korean.
Over the course of time, they would be encouraged to talk about one or two things wrong with America. Slowly, the captors would get the prisoner to admit that yeah, there were a couple things that could be better in the USA.
Little by little, they would ask for more information, sometimes in exchange for a small comfort like better food.
Eventually, the Koreans would record the prisoner saying how bad America was. Then, when the timing was right, they would play this dialogue for the other American prisoners to hear.
The other prisoners rightly attacked this sin of treason. They would ask point blank, “You turning Red?”
This is what fascinates me: faced with his obvious wrongdoing, the prisoner would defend himself. He would say that yes, he was becoming Communist.
Defending his actions become psychologically more important than defending his beloved country.
Isn’t that deeply intriguing?
Think of the implications in our own lives. There is an enemy. He starts slow. He breaks us down, bit by bit, over time.
If a person believes the lies of the evil one, it’s subtle. They start living a life of sin.
When confronted, this click happens and the sinner will DEFEND. Literally, to the death, they will defend their actions.
In their deepest places, they know they are doing wrong. But when attacked, there is this bigger need to be true to self. The Koreans knew that science of behavior INTIMATELY and they manipulated it ingeniously.
If those other soldiers in captivity would have recognized the obvious brainwashing that had occurred, they would have not have attacked their fellow man. They would have seen that the enemy was getting to him.
I find this SO FASCINATING. Don’t you think that their safe and loving reception of him would have created a different outcome?
(I am NOT passing judgment. I cannot even imagine the trauma of that time. I use that situation as a phenomenal resource for our own similar behaviors.)
I have obviously thought long and hard about this subject, mostly because of my past and how, when I was in my self-righteous stage, I didn’t help ANYONE get closer to Jesus. I just pissed a lot of people off and in fact, I made them MORE ENTRENCHED IN THEIR SIN.
So, should you correct a sinner?
That is totally up to you. I know some people feel that they must help people see the error of their ways. And I am sure that some people do a 360 when they are told they are sinning.
I just happen to think that there are better ways to inspire change. Stay tuned.